The Rivers State Government and the management of Ethiopian Airlines have reached an agreement, in principle, for the operation of permanent international flights from the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, subject to the approval of the relevant federal authorities.
The two parties reached the agreement at the Headquarters of Ethiopian Airlines after a high-powered meeting between officials of the state government led by Governor Nyesom Wike; and the Group Chief Executive Officer of Ethiopian Airlines, Dr Tewolde Gebremariam, the Chief Commercial Officer, Esayas Wolde Mariam, Vice President, Strategic Planning, Busera Awel, Managing Director, Sales International, Lemma Yadecha, Regional Director, Sales and Services, Western Africa, Mitiku Asrat and Manager, Group Alliance and Commercial Cooperation, Hewoel Lemma.
In an address, Chief Commercial Officer, Esayas Wolde Mariam, explained that Ethiopian Airlines has agreed to fly permanently from Port Harcourt International Airport, subject to the approval of the Federal Government.
Mariam said: “We are willing and capable to fly into Port Harcourt on a regular basis. For now, we have exhausted our Bilateral Air Agreement Approval, and we need another approval to operate the Port Harcourt route.
“We need your help to ensure that approval comes from the federal authorities. At first, there should be a temporary operating permit, pending the final approval”, he said.
The chief commercial officer added that Ethiopian Airlines needs the initial support of the Rivers State Government for handling and aviation infrastructure in Port Harcourt to develop the new market.
He noted that Ethiopian Airlines would also embark on advertisements to promote Port Harcourt as a tourist and investment destination.
Also speaking, the Vice President, Strategic Planning, Busera Awel made a presentation on the capacity and vision of the airline for the continent.
In his response, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike emphasised that the state government was willing to provide an enabling environment for Ethiopian Airlines to operate in the state, and assured that he would meet with the Minister of Aviation, Sen Hadi Sirika, to ensure that Port Harcourt International Airport was approved for Ethiopian Airlines as a destination.
Wike further said that his administration was working on making Port Harcourt a regional air transport hub for greater economic development of the state.
He said: “As we, therefore, consolidate on our achievements, we want to also focus on making Port Harcourt City a regional air transport hub through the private public partnership (PPP) approach while leveraging on the existing aviation infrastructure and related market and other advantages of the state.
“I wish to assure you that we are ready to do everything within our powers and spheres of authority and influence to facilitate the realization of your interest and desire to directly and sustainably fly from Port Harcourt to Addis Ababa and other parts of the world”, the governor stated.
Wike thanked officials of Ethiopian Airlines for their interest in expanding and retaining their services in Port Harcourt City, adding that the Rivers State Government would offer its social partnership, goodwill and support.
The governor noted that Port Harcourt was strategically located to serve as a transit point for the entire South-South and parts of the South-East, pointing out that, “We have agreed in principle that there is need for Ethiopian Airlines to fly from Port Harcourt to other destinations. Port Harcourt is a destination of choice, as it is easily accessible for the entire South-South and other states in the South-East”.
Wike was accompanied by former Deputy Speaker of House of Representatives, Hon Austin Opara, Rivers State PDP Chairman, Bro Felix Obuah, Director General of Rivers State Bureau of Public Procurement, Mr Thompson Emmanuel, former House of Assembly member, Hon Felix Nwaeke, former Eleme Local Government Area Chairman, Chief Ejor N. Ejor, and President of Port Harcourt Investors and Entrepreneurs’ Forum, Ibifiri Bob-Manuel.
Money We’re Spending On Cancer Hospital Justified -Wike
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has declared that the money his administration is spending on the Dr. Peter Odili Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease Diagnostic and Treatment Centre in the state is not a misplaced priority.
The governor made the assertion, yesterday, when he visited the project site at Rumuokuta in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area, to inspect the progress of work done already.
Wike said that no amount of money spent in putting in place facilities that will secure the health of all residents in the state will be considered a waste.
“I’m very happy that the money we have spent here is not a misplaced priority. The healthcare of our people is important to us.
“It will save the time people travel overseas for cancer treatment. I think it will be something every Nigerians will be happy with. Here will be like a tourist centre. It has helipad, and doctors’ quarters. In case of emergency, they will fly in helicopter to this place and doctors who stay here will attend to them.”
The governor explained that the State government decided to build doctors’ quarters within the precincts of the Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease Diagnostic and Treatment Centre so that no doctor will claim he is unable to attend to patients timely, particularly in emergency situations, because of distance of where he stays to the hospital.
The governor expressed satisfaction with the pace of work done in view of the gigantic nature of the project and the difficult topography that requires massive piling.
“We have confidence in Julius Berger and having come here today, I think they are on schedule. We are happy with the level of work.
“It’s not a job you must rush. They are taking their time to make sure they give the citizens of the state the best and to Nigerians in general.
“You knows it is a specialist hospital, the first of its kind in this country. We are quite comfortable and confident that by end of July 2022, they would have handed over this very important project to the State.”
The Regional Manager of Julius Berger Nigeria PLC, Juergen Fischer, said they are conscious of the promise they have made to the governor to deliver the project as agreed.
Already, he noted, the milestone achieved has surpassed what was initially expected because they have done ground piling and concluded the critical baseline underground structural work done.
“You can be sure that by the end of July as we promised his excellency, we will deliver this hospital. We are a little bit ahead of schedule even in the rainy season.”
US Lawmakers Stop $875m Defence Equipment Sale To Nigeria
The United States lawmakers are holding down a proposed sale of attack helicopters to Nigeria amid mounting concerns about President Muhammadu Buhari government’s human rights record as it grapples with multiple security crises.
US lawmakers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have reportedly delayed clearing a proposed sale of 12 AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters and accompanying defence systems to the Nigerian military.
The deal is worth $875million, according to US officials and congressional aides familiar with the matter.
In addition to the helicopters, the proposed sale includes 28 helicopter engines produced by GE Aviation, 14 military-grade aircraft navigation systems made by Honeywell, and 2,000 advanced precision kill weapon systems—laser-guided rocket munitions, according to information sent by the State Department to Congress and reviewed by ‘Foreign Policy’ magazine.
A report by ‘Foreign Policy’, last Tuesday, said the behind-the-scenes controversy over the proposed arms sale illustrates a broader debate among Washington policymakers over how to balance national security with human rights objectives.
The hold on the sale also showcases how powerful US lawmakers want to push President Joseph Biden administration to rethink US relations with Nigeria amid overarching concerns that Buhari is drifting toward authoritarianism as his government is besieged by multiple security challenges, including the Boko Haram insurgency.
But Western governments and international human rights organisations have ramped up their criticisms of the Buhari regime, particularly in the wake of its ban on Twitter, systemic corruption issues, and the Nigerian military’s role in deadly crackdowns on #EndSARS protesters, last October.
The Chairperson of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Menendez, called for a “fundamental rethink of the framework of our overall engagement” with Nigeria during a Senate hearing with US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken in June.
Both Menendez and Sen. Jim Risch, a top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have placed a hold on the proposed arms sale, according to multiple US officials and congressional aides familiar with the matter, who spoke to ‘Foreign Policy’ on condition of anonymity.
The details on the proposed sale were first sent by the US State Department to Congress in January before then-former Vice President Joe Biden was inaugurated as president, according to officials familiar with the matter.
Nigeria has just received six out of the 12 Tucano jet fighters purchased from the US Government.
Some experts said the United States should hit the pause button on major defence sales until it makes a broader assessment of the extent to which corruption and mismanagement hobble the Nigerian military, and whether the military is doing enough to minimize civilian casualties in its campaign against Boko Haram and other violent insurrectionists.
Administration officials say they are tired of regular efforts by Capitol Hill to review arms sales to some countries.
“There doesn’t have to be a reason why we don’t provide weapons or equipment to the Nigerian military,” the Director of the Africa Programme at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank, Judd Devermont, said.
“But it has to be done with an assessment of how it will actually, one, change the direction of conflict in Nigeria, and, two, that they will use it consistent with our laws. In both cases, it’s either a question mark or a fail.
“There is a culture of impunity that exists around abuses by the military,” Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch, Anietie Ewang, said.
Ewang cited the Nigerian military’s killing of unarmed protesters during the massive #EndSARS demonstrations against police corruption and brutality last year as well as cases documented by human rights organizations of abuses in the military’s campaign against Boko Haram.
“I’m sure it’s a difficult situation. There are so many conflicts springing up across the country now,” Ewang said.
“The authorities, I presume, are trying to do the best they can to save lives and properties. But this must be done in accordance with human rights standards. You can’t throw one out just to be able to achieve the other.”
Nigerians Waiting To Elect PDP In 2023, Atiku Claims
The former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar says Nigerians are waiting eagerly for the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) to take over power at the federal level in 2023.
Speaking to journalists at the Rivers State Government House, Port Harcourt, yesterday, Atiku said his meeting with the state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike was fruitful.
Atiku explained that party affairs brought him to Port Harcourt, and he had spent the time reconciling touching issues with the governor.
According to him, the issues bother on how to ensure unity and stability in the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), that are critical for the party in clinching electoral victory in 2003.
“Well, I came here to reconcile with the governor on party affairs and how we can ensure that there is unity and stability in the party, so, that we can take over government in 2023. I believe that Nigerians can’t wait for 2023 to come, so that PDP will return.”
Speaking on the current insecurity challenges that have overwhelmed the capability of the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government, Atiku described the prevailing situation in the country as bad.
He urged Nigerians to wait for the appropriate time when PDP shall unveil its policies on how it wants to address the issue of insecurity across the country.
“I have never seen it (insecurity) this bad. I am 70 years plus, I have never seen it this bad in terms of security challenges, in terms of economy, in terms of unemployment. This is the worst.
“Why can’t you give us time? We will come up with our policies. We will present them to Nigerians when the time comes.
“We have done that before. Under PDP, we recorded the highest economic growth, the best foreign reserves, we reduced unemployment. You know that we can do it”.
The former vice president also acknowledged the tremendous leadership success recorded by Wike, who he described as a topmost governor among his peers in the party.
“I think he (Wike) is the topmost governor we have in the party. There is no doubt about that in terms of projects, youth empowerment and employment; in terms of security. Yes, we have security challenges all over the country.”
He further commended the governor for his outstanding leadership and sterling performance in office.
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